One Squiggly Line Blog

Hand-drawn pictures can make things clear, simple, and fun in blogs, too!

Visual Thinking: Visuals Impact Your Brain

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It probably comes as no surprise that cheerful, happy visuals can put you in a cheerier mood. Or make you crack a smile at the very least.

What may come as a surprise is that cheery visuals impact more than mood. And that impact differs between men and women. Men experience a greater drop in anxiety than women do when looking at a happy picture. Women, on the other hand, experience a greater boost in their working memory than men do when faced with a cheerful picture.

Check out One Squiggly Line's About Visual Thinking page to learn more.

Creativity: Switch Perspectives

There's a myth out there that highly creative people just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. Like a great big lightening bolt from the sky. Or a soft whisper from a mystical muse.

Truth is, creativity is not quite so passive. It is an active process. And there's a science to it, not just an art. There are even formulas, methods, and procedures for generating ideas and, equally importantly, evaluating them.

One great way to think more creatively is to switch your perspectives. Try looking at things from the perspective of a child. Or a superhero. Or a rock star. Or your favorite movie character. You can choose anyone — dead or alive, real or fictional, human or not. Just pick someone and step into their shoes for a minute to see things through their eyes. Another word for that is empathy.

You can also switch perspectives physically. Try walking into a new room. Or taking your work outside. Or maybe lying down to think. Or simply standing up for a while instead of staying seated.

Anything that causes you to see things in a new way can ignite your creativity. So give it a try and see what works for you!

Want more? Check out YouTube channel One Squiggly Line.

Visual Notes: While Reading a Book

People often think of taking visual notes while listening to a live presentation or maybe an audio file. But there's no reason why your notes from print materials can't be visual, too. Especially if you're studying. Or gathering information to write a longer paper. Or even reading a non-fiction book just for fun.

The visual notes above were created while reading chapter 5 of The Accidental Creative,by Todd Henry. One assignment in my grad program was to write a book review. Of course, that meant I had to actually read the book first! So, I created visual notes of each chapter as I went along. That made it much, much easier to see main themes as they emerged.

I had no intention of showing these to anyone when I created them. They were just how I kept track of the key points from each chapter. And I actually ended up "writing" the entire book review visually!

You can see then entire set in thisPinterest board.Because I hadn't planned on sharing them with anyone, I experimented with some things. Some I like better than others, but they all did the job of making my notes much easier to use later on...and the whole project way more fun!

Visual Thinking: Have a Strong Vision

A leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees farther than others see, and who sees before others do. — Leroy Eims

Leadership starts with a vision. Whether you're leading a country, a company, or simply yourself, you must have a vision. A strong one. Because the stronger the vision, the more likely success will be.

That vision, strong or not, always begins in your imagination, or the mind's eye. That's where you start to see things as you'd like them to be in the future. Or the way you wish things could be right now.

Getting that vision out of your head and onto paper makes it more concrete. That allows you to see your vision more clearly, to flesh it out, and to better communicate it to others. It also allows you to see what may be missing or what may not be necessary. A tangible drawing makes your thinking and communication much more efficient!

Drawing out your vision and keeping it someplace where everyone can easily see it, keeps your vision front and center in everyone's mind, which fuels the motivation needed to continue moving forward. A physical image also allows everyone to see how far you've already come, hopefully prompting you to celebrate those successes along the way.

So pick up those markers and start drawing! Remember, you're drawing to communicate here, not to create the next Mona Lisa!

Check out One Squiggly Line's About Visual Thinking page to learn more.

Visual Thinking: Words & Pictures Together

What grabbed your attention first — the image above or the big chunk of text below?

Odds are, the image grabbed your eye first. It's probably the main reason you're reading the text in the first place! So go back to the image for a minute. Really look at it. READ it.

Now, read the paragraph below:

Visual thinking makes complex information simple, brings clarity to confusing communication, makes the common unique, turns the passive into the active and apathy into interest. With visual thinking, the clumsy becomes elegant, the impersonal becomes personal, the dry becomes juicy, "Yes, but..." is replaced with "Yes, and...", trial and error turns to trial and learn, the cold becomes warm, and the separate become unified.

That paragraph and the accompanying image say the same thing! Most people find the information easier to absorb through the image than the paragraph. They're able to absorb that information faster and remember it longer. And, it's a lot more fun!

Creativity: The Idea Box

There's a myth out there that highly creative people just sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. Like a great big lightening bolt from the sky. Or a soft whisper from a mystical muse.

Truth is, creativity is not quite so passive. It is an active process. And there's a science to it, not just an art. There are even formulas, methods, and procedures for generating ideas and, equally importantly, evaluating them.

One classic way to create something new is to combine things. And a great way to do that is with an idea box. It's really easy to do - the image above shows one I used with kindergarten through jr. highers.

First, write out the parts of your project, problem or whatever you're thinking about. Next, make a list of thing that fall into each of those categories (random is good here!). Then, chose something from each list and put them all together. If you don't like what you end up with, reach back into your idea box until you find something you do like!


Visual Thinking Words & Pictures Together

Hand-drawn visual created in real-time
increase an event's impact by:

  • allowing the audience to see what they just heard — increasing engagement and retention.

  • literally showing the audience the big picture of each talk and, when displayed together, the event as a whole. (Great for social media!)

  • providing a visual document of the day that can be shared during and after the fact...for years and years to come!

  • bringing underlying themes and patterns to the surface and deepening conversations.

Creativity: You can do it!

Keep it Simple.


No artistic experience is needed to draw!All you need is a pen, paper, and your observation skills. Believe it or not, how the drawing turns out really doesn't really matter.

That's why it's great to draw with pen or marker. That way, you must use every mark that ends up on the page, which requires creativity. So you get to exercise and strengthen your visual thinking skills along with your creativity and the same time.

Don't know where to start? Try just drawing the outline of things.No need to be perfect.Most of the time, close enough is actually more interesting!

This quick and simple drawing was done in my travel sketchbook while on a job in New York City. I didn't want to carry by big markers around with me, so I just used a think black pen and a small gray marker for shading.



Visit One Squiggly Line's Services page for samples of each type of work, or emailinfo@OneSquigglyLine.com to book a job, ask some questions, or set up a workshop — no drawing skills required!

Visual Thinking: Real-Time Illustrated Visual Notes

I had the pleasure of drawing for the wonderful NetApp folks at their Insight conference in Las Vegas. Instead of drawing the keynotes or break-out sessions, they placed me in The Cube, a live-stream video platform.Check out the replay!

As you can see above, I was positioned near the speakers. I drew while they talked and was pretty much finished when they stopped. While the focus of the live-streaming was the speakers, I appeared in the background and during breaks.

The visual notes were then displayed where people could continue to discuss the content throughout the conference.

These were drawn on 40"x60" foam core board with Neuland markers.

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Here's another image I created at NetApp Insight last month. I was given a quote from the press and asked to make make it visual. There was no pre-planning — I just picked up a marker and started to draw it out...in front of the camera!

This was drawn on a 30"x40" foam core board and took 23 minutes to draw. The final video is on their blog where you can watch me draw it in 26 seconds.

This is just another way hand-drawn visuals can help bring information to life!

Schedule me for your next event!

Creativity: The 3 C's

Creativity researchers acknowledge there are different types of creativity and sometimes break it down like this:

Big C — Creative genius (think Einstein, da Vinci, etc.)

Little c — Every day creativity, like writing a witty text

Professional c — Those whose job it is to create (like me!)

While not everyone can be a big C or a professional c creative, everyone has plenty of little c creativity! Drawing is a great place to start for any kind of creativity. Check out my YouTube channel for some quick videos to get your creative juices flowing.

Check out One Squiggly Line's About Visual Thinking page to learn more about little c creativity.